Substantial Truth in Defamation Law

American Journal of Trial Advocacy, Vol. 1, 2008

UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2008-54

31 Pages Posted: 14 May 2009

See all articles by Meiring De Villiers

Meiring De Villiers

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

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Date Written: August 22, 2008

Abstract

Truth is a complete defense to a defamation charge, but a defendant does not have to prove the literal truth of a defamatory statement to prevail. An effective defense can rely on the substantial truth doctrine. Under the substantial truth doctrine, a defamatory statement is First Amendment-protected if it is factually similar to the pleaded truth, and does not differ from the truth by more than immaterial details. This article presents and analyzes the theory, application, and constitutional foundations of the substantial truth doctrine. It concludes that the doctrine promotes the values of the First Amendment by reducing the risk of self-censorship, yet preserves defamation law's reputational protection and compensatory function.

Keywords: Criminal Law and Procedure

Suggested Citation

De Villiers, Meiring, Substantial Truth in Defamation Law (August 22, 2008). American Journal of Trial Advocacy, Vol. 1, 2008, UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2008-54, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1402413

Meiring De Villiers (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia
(650) 725-8214 (Phone)
(650) 723-4107 (Fax)

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